Posts Tagged ‘corporate church sins’

Several weeks ago, I was invited to attend an all-day Doctor of Ministry class at my seminary.

The first half of the class dealt with turning around a church, while the second half focused on conflict resolution.

As I came to understand, turnarounds often require conflict resolution.

Our instructor – a veteran pastor and conflict resolution practitioner – told us that in one church, 14 leaders were involved in sexual immorality.

You read that right: 14.

If there is a God … and if He is holy as Scripture indicates … and if He longs to bless His people … then how could He bless that church?

He couldn’t … and only a process involving individual and corporate repentance and reconciliation could help that group turn things around.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), including pastors, governing leaders, staff members, and average churchgoers.

When we confess our sins to God as individuals, He forgives us every time (1 John 1:9).

But sometimes churches tolerate the sins in their midst, and in those cases, God cannot and will not bless that church until they deal with those sins.

Having been in church ministry for nearly four decades, I’ve seen some sins that churches rarely deal with.  Let me list a few of the ones I’ve witnessed:

First, many churches do not protect their pastor from attacks.

While serving in my third staff position, my pastor was mercilessly assaulted verbally.  The attacks were undeserved, cruel, and personal.

My pastor called to tell me that he was so upset by these attacks that he couldn’t study for his Sunday message.  It was open season on him.

So I asked the deacon chairman if I could attend their next meeting.  I said, “Your pastor is under attack.  If you have a problem with something he’s doing or saying, then tell him yourself.  But if not, you need to protect him from these attacks.”

The deacons voted 5-2 to do something to protect their pastor … and then did nothing.

But the deacons weren’t the only ones responsible.  The malcontents became bold with their complaints and spread them throughout the church.

If just a few of the people who heard the complaints had challenged them … or reported them to the pastor or various board members … or to several of the opinion makers in the church … this whole sorry episode could have been avoided.

My pastor was never the same after he endured the attacks … and the after effects stayed with the church for years.

Just as Israel in the wilderness sinned by complaining against Moses and Aaron, so too thousands of congregations cannot move forward until they admit:

“Lord, forgive us for sinning against our pastor by not protecting him from slander and character assassination.”

Second, many churches tolerate … and even revel … in malicious gossip.

My first pastorate was in a small church in Silicon Valley.  It didn’t take long for me to size up what happened if certain women didn’t like what their pastor did or said.

There were four middle-aged women who had plenty of time on their hands.  The locations of their houses roughly formed an invisible square.

They talked on the phone a lot … and seemed to delight in running down people at every possible opportunity.

For most of my ministry life, I have tried to apply the truths of Ecclesiastes 7:21-22 to gossips:

“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you – for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.”

In other words, since I’ve said unkind things about others, I need to be gracious when others are unkind toward me.

But one woman in particular could be nasty.  She didn’t just talk about other people – she tried to destroy them with her tongue.

All I had to do was listen to the way she talked about others to know how she talked about me.

Since these women were more than twice my age, my wife and I tried to love on them as much as possible.

But church leaders … most of them males … knew how destructive these women were, yet would not speak to them about this issue.

It’s not necessarily a sin to talk about others … but it is a sin to talk about them maliciously.

For that reason, many churches need to admit:

“Lord, forgive us for tolerating malicious gossip in our midst.”

Third, some churches tolerate sexual immorality.

I was once a staff member in a church where sexual immorality was rampant.

Let’s just say that some of the activities at church parties weren’t condoned by Scripture.

When this behavior finally leaked out, I couldn’t believe it … because many of the participants were leaders and teachers … and even people who had led and taught me.

This misbehavior had to be known by many people … but people maintained silence for a long time.

When somebody finally spoke up and told the pastor, he took immediate action … and the perpetrators all left the church.

But how can God bless a church where key leaders are fooling around with impunity?

Some churches need to confess:

“Lord, forgive us for tolerating sexual immorality in our midst.”

Fourth, most churches don’t take Christ’s Great Commission seriously.

If it’s true that only 15% of all churches are growing – and that 85% of churches are stagnating or declining – it’s easy to see why:

Most churches exist only for themselves.

I recently held some conversations with a church in another state.  They claimed they wanted to reach out to unbelievers in their community but refused to make any changes in their worship service.

But if and when guests do visit, they can immediately sense that the service is designed for those who are already there … and that they are excluded by default.

And if they feel that way, they won’t be back.

I honestly believe that most Christians either think there isn’t a hell or that the unbelievers they know aren’t going there.

And since nobody is spiritually lost, let’s just make church for us!

And that’s how most churches act.  They’re stuck in survival mode because they don’t take Matthew 28:18-20 seriously.

But most churches need to admit:

“Lord, forgive us for being apathetic toward lost people … and empower all of us to bring people to Christ.”

Finally, some churches need to deal with painful memories.

I’m currently reading a book by Neil Anderson and Charles Mylander called Extreme Church Makeover.

The subtitle tells it all: “A biblical plan to help your church achieve unity and freedom in Christ.”

The authors state that most churches try to ignore their past, but “if leaders sweep repeated offenses under the rug, they will soon trip over them.”

They observe: “If the leaders bury the painful past and refuse to discuss it, they cut themselves off from God’s blessings for today and tomorrow.”

They go on: “Some of Satan’s favorite deceptions are that darkness is safer than light, that hidden things are better not discussed, and that pain has no permanent resolution.  Misguided leaders see painful church memories as something embarrassing that should be ignored, thus allowing the sores to fester instead of heal.”

Many families have experienced a traumatic event in their past.  They refuse to discuss it because they don’t want to relive the pain.  But those painful memories linger in the minds of sensitive family members.  The family remains quietly or openly fractured until they finally face their past and seek healing … which usually requires some degree of confession and forgiveness.

Church families often behave the same way.

Anderson and Mylander ask:

“Is it really possible that Satan can take advantage of a church corporately because of painful memories?”

They go on: “We believe he can.  It is not the memory itself that gives the enemy an advantage over us, but rather the lack of forgiveness. . . . because refusing corporate forgiveness allows Satan to have access to the church.”

I have only scratched the surface of sins that churches in our day tolerate.  (Read Jesus’ words to the churches in Revelation 2-3 for some eye-opening divine evaluations.)

What are some church sins that you’ve noticed?

Check out our website at www.restoringkingdombuilders.org  You’ll find Jim’s story, recommended resources on conflict, and a forum where you can ask questions about conflict situations in your church.

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